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In “Alcohol Myopia,” Claude Steele and Robert Josephs note two troubling consequences of alcohol: (1) the variety of effects of alcohol on such a wide range of social behaviors, and (2) the irregularity of such effects. Prior research points to the fact that alcohol has haphazard effects (pg. 921). Intoxication leads people to be less aware of inhibitory cues and be increasingly more responsive to immediate, salient cues-internal or external―ultimately leading to more aggressive, assertive, self-disclosing, and reckless behaviors. These are the prized and dangerous effects of the drug (pg.
The authors’ central idea in the current research focuses on alcohol and its impairment of perception and thought (myopia) rather than specific reaction or expectancies of using the drug. The authors come to three primary conclusions. First, alcohol inhibits a form of response conflict. When an individual is sober, salient cues that motivate a behavior are challenged by an access to inhibiting cues. Alcohol prevents access to these inhibiting cues, that is, intoxication minimizes attention and thought to the cues an individual can respond to, and thus renders social behavior more bold and extreme (pg.
Second, Steele and Josephs note that if consumption of alcohol is accompanied by a distracting activity that meets the threshold for processing demands, alcohol can reinforce diversion of worrying thoughts and in turn diminish anxiety and depression. In other words, if an individual is distracted by, for instance, watching TV while consuming alcohol, then the individual’s resources are drained on that distractor. There are no resources left to ponder on any worries.
In the absence of a sufficient distraction, the said individual has enough resources to focus on salient cues such as troubling thoughts.
Third, when a self-evaluative conflict is salient enough, alcohol diminishes the brain’s capacity to feel modesty and deficiency, but leaves enough to feel self-inflation and the need for self-regard. This ego inflation however, only occurs for traits that are important to the individual and that are ranked worse as compared with ideal-self when sober.
This research hopes to educate, prevent and treat the ill effects of alcohol. The authors suggest that because alcohol myopia helps relieve psychological stress in the presence of a distractor, scientists can begin to understand the roots of alcoholism and the specific conditions under which alcohol can help relieve depression and anxiety (pg. 931). The authors argue that alcoholism in combination with a distracting activity are reinforcing, even in the face of the negative effects of drinking (i.e. nausea).
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